As well as the improved look of the electronic version, the new edition has a slightly less negative description of Lanzhou than in previous editions:
"The city sprawls in an inelegant east-west concrete melange" (p.805). Not disagreeing, but remove 'east-west' and this would be a fair description of many Chinese cities.
"Trapped between mountains, Lanzhou has frequent bad-air days when a grey sun sets anaemically over a hazy city." (p.805). By taking out the 'most polluted city in China in the late 1990s' line from the 11th edition, the new description is less hyperbolic than before. Even so, it fails to mention that the pollution is mainly during the winter months. In the summer months, there is every chance of blue skies: In 2010 the best months were May (94% of days were good-excellent air quality), June (97%) and July (100%).
In terms of the list of 'sights', there's no great change. Here is a comparison:
11th Edition Sights:
- Gansu Provincial Museum
- White Cloud Temple (water wheels; beach)
- Lanshan Park (Wuquan Park; chairlift)
- White Pagoda Hill (park; temple; chairlift (sic))
- Gansu Provincial Museum
- White Cloud Temple
- White Pagoda Hill (temple; cable car; Zhongshan Bridge)
- Water wheels
There is no mention of the Steles Forest, high up on the north bank hillside, or the new Golden Pass Cultural Quarter developments, also on the north bank opposite the beach. While they are not necessarily essential places to visit, these are significant additions to the landscape (the latter especially attractive when lit-up in the evenings), which point to a city undergoing change. The new edition of the Lonely Planet doesn't really reflect this, unfortunately.
Most surprisingly, there is still no discussion of Lanzhou's many mosques. In fact, Xiguan Mosque has disappeared completely from the map in this new edition. This is a shame: the mosques are Lanzhou's most obvious feature of Gansu's "cultural diversity" (p.803) , and sets Lanzhou apart from other cities in central and eastern China (as well as being an explanation for the numerous halal beef noodle restaurants, of course).
"Airport buses leave every hour […] three hours before scheduled flight departures." It's usually safe to leave two hours before your departure, or even less for early-morning or late-evening buses (1 hour for the journey; check -in opens 1 hour before departure). Taxis usually do the journey in a bit under an hour.
"Lanzhou badly needs a metro system" (p.809). Funding for a rapid bus transport system has been approved, and is scheduled for completion in 2014.
Some additional recommendations:
- Turn left at the top of the cable car, to visit the Steles Forest, which is situated in a spectacular building and garden complex.
- Visit some of the city mosques. Lingmingtang Mosque is a little out of the way, but well worth the effort.
- Browse the antique arts & crafts market at Huang Miao (perhaps catching an afternoon performance of local opera in the tea house there), combined with a meal in the Uighur restaurant by the main gate.
- With a day to spare, head out of town to Xinglong Mountain (1 hour by bus).
- Stay in the Yashi Hotel on Zhongshan Lu, to enjoy walks by the river, and convenient for Zhangye Lu pedestrian shopping street. Or, if you're looking for a budget bed, try the Huar Youth Hostel (opened late 2011).
- Do some Red Tourism by visiting the Air Battle Memorial or the 8th Army Office Museum.
- For something more adventurous, you could go ziplining, skiing or mountain biking.
Play the slideshow below for a selection of city photos: